The Austin Technology Council’s Policy Coalition finished its first two City Council outreach meetings last week. Designed to bring technologists, entrepreneurs, and elected officials together in a collaborative environment, these meet-and-greets are a critical touch-point for the tech community as ATC explores how to build a productive relationship between tech and City Hall.
Council Members Greg Casar and Sheri Gallo presented their legislative priorities to the founding members of the ATC Policy Coalition and the broader ATC community. While there are more Council Members left to meet, the ATC Policy Coalition is eager to engage on Austin’s critical policy challenges. Here are our key takeaways:
- Tech needs to get involved - While Austin’s TNC vote (Prop 1) this summer was the final impetus for tech’s renewed interest in City Hall, there’s never been a more important time for Austin’s leading industry to engage. From affordability and mobility to biotechnology and community health, Austin has a slate of pressing challenges and exciting opportunities. Austin’s political leadership, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and technology companies all need to engage to realize the potential and promise of Austin’s future.
- City Council wants tech to get involved - Council Members are eager to engage with the tech community on pressing policy challenges. The overarching message from both Council Members Gallo and Casar is that tech must get involved with City Hall and there’s plenty of room for tech to help tackle Austin’s challenges. As the ATC Policy Coalition continues to host chats with Council Members, we look forward to learning more about where and how tech can most efficiently engage and solve community challenges.
- There’s plenty of room for the City to get ‘smarter’ - The City of Austin’s struggles go beyond a misunderstanding of the new economy. The efficacy and transparency of city permitting, planning, and budgeting processes all need improvement, and the tech community is uniquely positioned to support the City of Austin’s transformation to a Smart City.
- The ‘tech agenda’ is the community agenda - As Council Member Gallo says, “We have incredible needs in this City, and all of them are substantial.” The ATC Policy Coalition will lead the way for the tech community’s engagement on critical civic challenges. ATC’s endorsement of the 2016 Mobility Bond and the ATC Foundation’s leadership on STEM education are just two examples of tech engagement on community issues, and we’re eager to add more.
- Tech needs to get involved on its own terms - Traditionally in politics, advocates play offense or defense, but that is an old-economy paradigm. Austin’s technology community can and should bring its entrepreneurial spirit to City Hall — focusing on new, collaborative solutions to the community. Entrenching tech in a specific agenda is a disservice to both tech and the community. It’s time to get involved.